Road checkpoints coming
By 04/10/2003 00:00:00
MADD: ‘Drivers better be ready'
The Ellis County Press
ELLIS COUNTY - Anyone driving on a public roadway in Ellis County would be subjected to a sobriety checkpoint, according to local Mothers Against Drunk Driving counselor Kathleen Smith and a state bill the 23-year-old victims assistance group is sponsoring.
The measure, however, is raising fears of a 'police state,' and many residents claim the checkpoints are just another violation of the unreasonable search and seizure amendment in both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions.
MADD, however, cites the increasing number of alcohol-related deaths on roadways as a reason for the checkpoints, and dismisses the view that they are unconstitutional.
'According to [current] state law, your car is not pri-
vate property if it's on a public roadway, or roads being [paid for] by taxpayers,' Smith said.
Additionally, Smith said the checkpoints would not be 'random' but they would be 'temporary.' Advertisements for the checkpoints would be published in local newspapers before they are actually conducted, she said.
Legally, police officers cannot search vehicles without probable cause. Drivers are, however, required to show a license and registration if asked.
'Benjamin Franklin put it best: ‘They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor safety,'' said Jim Ryerson. 'Can someone tell me how being asked to show your identification and to discuss with police where you've been and where you're going differs from being asked the same questions in a so-called ‘police state?''
State House Bill 226 calls for the checkpoints, and was authored by Rep. Todd Smith of Bedford; a similar bill was introduced in the senate and is awaiting approval.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in 1994 that sobriety checkpoints couldn't be used unless statewide procedures for conducting checkpoints are in place.
The bills, Smith said, establish guidelines for conducting the checkpoints the high court called for.
And in 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled checkpoints unconstitutional, but reversed their stance a year later during a Michigan case.
'The use of [sobriety checkpoints] is one measure that can help Texas qualify for federal transportation funds,' Smith said, who also noted recent polls show Texans favoring checkpoints by a 2-to-1 margin. 'This is something [MADD] has pushed for, and we're hopeful it will pass.
'Drivers better be ready to wait in long lines of traffic. These will take up much of your time [on the road].'